When we talk about stress, what we are actually referring to is a hormone in our body called cortisol which is triggered when we need to be alert or on guard over something. This hormone over-rides all other hormones because it is related to our very survival, alerting our body to a threat. If we are under threat, then it is obvious that our body is going to use all its resources to get away from the danger and we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. At this time, it stands to reason that it would not be in our interests to expend energy on non-essential functions such as conception, sex drive or even digestion. This is where the expression to xxx oneself with fear – our body evacuates itself with anything that is not needed that could slow us down.
In ancient times when we were running away from a wooly mammoth, this served us well because we would run away to safety then the adrenaline and cortisol would go back down to normal levels, the quick burst of energy and high pulse rate would flush out the unwanted byproducts of the energy expenditure (oxidative stress) and homeostasis would return and our daily bodily functions return.
In today’s society, however, so many people have a constant drip-feed of adrenaline either through stress at work, worry about money, stressful relationships etc so the effect of the adrenaline is longer term and leads to a lowering of fertility hormones, lower libido, poor digestion and hence a less healthy body.
When this is looked at in the context of conception, there are usually heightened stress levels anyway due to the intense desire to fall pregnant, but this pressure, too, becomes counter-productive which is why it is so common to hear about women falling pregnant once they have given up trying.
In the fertility unit at Adenbrooks in Cambridgeshire, they have introduced a programme to reduce oxidative stress for everyone who is about to undergo IVF. Oxidative stresses when we inhale oxygen and use it up as our ‘fuel’ so anything that makes us get out of breath. The by-products or ‘exhaust’ are not needed by the body much like an apple that you bite into comes into contact with oxygen and turns brown, or metal comes into contact with water and oxygen and it rusts. A similar process takes place in our body and releases something Kon as free radicals, which contribute to the ageing process. This is when our body needs ANTi-oxidants to flush them out.
It therefore follows that if you want to concede you need to reduce the external factor that are causing the stress in the first place and you also need to reduce the free-radical damage inside your body and restore homeostasis to get your hormones and general health to its optimum level, not just to fall pregnant, but to maintain a healthy pregnancy as well.
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